When I first got involved in organized skepticism and movement atheism I was very excited and rather intimidated. I was at a loss for words. I was pure squee.
I was so thrilled to be invited to participate in this blog with so many women I looked up to and just as thrilled to be invited to speak on stage at events. But I had terrible anxiety about not being smart enough or good enough or witty enough. How could I possible measure up? I knew that public speaking certainly wasn’t one of my strengths but I also knew that if you are given an opportunity you should try to make the best of it. So whenever I was in a position where I had a mic in my hand I would be completely honest and encourage the people in the audience, especially the other artists in the room, to use whatever skill they had to get involved and to help make the skeptic movement a better place. I would point out that I was not a public speaker, an academic or a scientist. Nor was I even really a writer when I first joined the Skepchick network. I was a visual artist and the skills of an artist was the only arsenal I had access to. So I would tell people in the audiences that I spoke to and to the people I would meet that even if you didn’t have a particular skill, you could still get involved. I was proof. I used to joke that heck, we even need skeptical cookies. So if you don’t think you have anything to offer just join a meet-up group and bring cookies, you will be doing your part to make this movement stronger and more welcoming.
Over the years I know that I encouraged some really great people to get involved in this community via event grants. I watched those people make friends and move on to do great things. I know that my Surly-Ramics art project has helped (and continues to help) by fundraising for secular charities and other events. I like to think that my fumbled words on stages and from behind my table at events has helped to carve out spaces for others, like me, to see that there is a rich world of non-belief out there and that you can help to make it grow.
It is ok to not believe. You don’t need a God to be good. Science and facts matter. Sharing truth helps.
But things have changed a lot for me over the years since I first joined this blog. And the way I look at the community is forever altered by the abuses and harassment I have witnessed first hand for a solid two years now. I’ll be honest, I’ve lost some enthusiasm. As I type this, I’m getting harassed on twitter by people who are within the skeptic/atheist community. Still. It never stops. Today they are making fun of the painting that I will link below. So I’m not sure I would recommend bringing cookies to a random meet-up group anymore. I still say join a group, but be sure to investigate it first and maybe stash a few cookies for yourself for later when you get home.
I still think the secular movement is very important. I think encouraging an atheist world view can help make the world a better, safer, more rational place. At least I hope. I think the tools of skepticism can really help a lot of people avoid scams and do important things like find better health care solutions. At least I hope. I just think that we have failed in some of our spaces and that we as a community can and should do better to be welcoming, compassionate and in general, more positive in our attempts at outreach. And that more people need to decide that we should do better and then actually do something about it. This I know.
But lately I’m at a loss for words as to how to help.
So I have decided to do what I do at times like this. I have decided to show in paint what I can’t find words to describe.
Over the next few months I am returning to my roots. I am retreating into the art-cave. I am going to talk less and make and post more art, both here and on Mad Art Lab. Think of it as my tray of cookies and you are all invited to my virtual meeting. I cook the vegan chocolate chip ones from scratch.
I hope that you will find your own meaning in the images and other projects I plan on posting. Feel free to interpret them as you wish. What I see when I paint doesn’t need to be what you see when you look at the finished product so please feel free to attach your own meaning.
My first painting in this series is called, Negative Space. It is 4ft high by 5ft wide and acrylic on canvas. It is about the skeptic and atheist community.
Click the image to embiggen on Flickr.
Feel free to discuss below and feel free to make the world a better place.